Apr 17, 2019 - Technology

FCC chief seeks to block China Mobile from operating in U.S.

China Mobile 5G experience area in Shanghai, China. Photo: Wang Yadong/VCG via Getty Images.

Federal Communications Commission chairman Ajit Pai is recommending, per executive branch agencies, that the FCC deny China Mobile's application to provide telecommunications services in the U.S. due to concerns about national security and law enforcement risks.

Why it matters: It's the first time executive branch agencies have recommended that the FCC deny such an application to interconnect with U.S. communications infrastructure, FCC officials said Wednesday on a call with reporters. The move represents a further escalation in the slow-building conflict between the U.S. and China over telecommunications trade.

The bigger picture: The Trump administration has already blocked Chinese telecom equipment maker Huawei from selling to American companies on national security grounds, driven largely by fears that China could use 5G network equipment to spy on Americans.

  • China is seen as the country to beat in deploying next-generation wireless infrastructure. Last week the FCC unveiled efforts to give the U.S. a leg up in the 5G race against China.

Details: China Mobile's application, submitted in 2011, requested permission to provide telecom services in the U.S., including connecting calls between the U.S. and the vast majority of countries, which would involve interconnecting with American internet networks.

  • FCC officials say China Mobile USA is indirectly and ultimately owned and controlled by the Chinese government. It's a subsidiary of global telecom giant China Mobile Limited.
  • U.S. officials saw risks that China Mobile would comply with government espionage requests or that information about U.S. communications networks and users could be exploited. There were also concerns that Chinese government officials could use its access to U.S. networks to block or interfere with communications traffic should an issue arise between the two countries.
  • After consultation with the intelligence community, executive branch agencies concluded those risks couldn't be resolved through a voluntary mitigation agreement.
  • Mitigation agreements require a baseline level of trust between parties, which does not exist in this case, per an FCC official.

What's next: The full commission will vote on Pai's recommendation at its May 9 meeting.

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Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

President Trump's former national security adviser John Bolton alleges in his forthcoming book that the president explicitly told him "he wanted to continue freezing $391 million in security assistance to Ukraine until officials there helped with investigations into Democrats including the Bidens," the New York Times first reported.

Why this matters: The revelations present a dramatic 11th hour turn in Trump's Senate impeachment trial. They directly contradict Trump's claim that he never tied the hold-up of Ukrainian aid to his demands for investigations into his political opponent Joe Biden.

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Sports stars, politicians and celebrities paid tribute to NBA legend Kobe Bryant, who was killed in a California helicopter crash alongside his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven others on Saturday. He was 41.

What they're saying: Lakers great Shaquille O'Neal said in an Instagram post of his former teammate, "There's no words to express the pain I'm going through now with this tragic and sad moment of losing my friend, my brother, my partner in winning championships, my dude and my homie. I love you brother and you will be missed."

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What's next: Trump's broader travel ban

A sign for International Arrivals is shown at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Photo: Ted S. Warren/AP

President Trump is expected to announce an expanded travel ban this week, which would restrict immigration from seven additional countries — Nigeria, Myanmar, Sudan, Belarus, Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan and Tanzania, per multiple reports.

  • The announcement would come on the third anniversary of Trump's original travel ban, which targeted Muslim-majority nations, per Axios' Stef Kight.